Consumer Reports Issues List of 15 Dietary Supplements To Always Avoid

Caffeine powder, Comfrey, and green tea extract are just some of the popular supplements that a prominent consumer watchdog group warns people to leave on the store shelf, due to the possible side effects.

Consumer Reports issued a list of what it considers the most dangerous dietary supplements this week, titled “15 Supplement Ingredients to Always Avoid”, warning about the risk of potentially serious health risks linked to ingredients, ranging from seizures and organ damage to death.

The report was compiled by a panel of expert doctors and dietary-supplement researchers, which identified dietary supplement ingredients that can harm consumers, cause side effects, or interact with other medications.

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All of the ingredients on the list are in products sold frequently online or in major retail stores, like GNC, Costco, CVS, Walmart, and Whole Foods.

The list of supplements Consumer Reports is urging consumers to avoid includes:

  • Aconite
  • Caffeine Powder
  • Chaparral
  • Coltsfoot
  • Comfrey
  • Germander
  • Greater Celandine
  • Green Tea Extract
  • Kava
  • Lobelia
  • Methylsynephrine
  • Pennyroyal Oil
  • Red Yeast Rice
  • Usnic Acid
  • Yohimbe

”Our experts agree that none of these supplement ingredients provide sufficient health benefits to justify the risk,” Consumer Reports experts state.

Caffeine Powder Concerns

Caffeine powder, also called 1,3,7–trimethylxanthine in many products, has been the focus of growing concern in recent years, due to a number of seizures, cardiac arrest, and even death associated with its use. Manufacturers claim caffeine powder will improve attention, enhance athletic performance, and aid with weight loss.

In July 2014, the FDA issued a safety advisory about the potential health risks with powdered caffeine, warning consumers to avoid using the products after they were linked to reports of serious injury and death.

A recent investigation by the FDA has also shown an increase in hospitalizations from caffeine toxicity reported across the country in recent years, stemming from the use of energy drinks, shots and other products containing high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants.

With the popularity of pure powdered caffeine growing, the FDA has recorded an increased number of hospitalizations from toxic caffeine levels in younger generations across the country in recent years. Many of the cases are directly related to the use of energy drinks, energy shots, and other harmful caffeine stimulants labeled as “All Natural.”

Symptoms of caffeine overdose can begin by feeling flushed which includes a rapid or dangerously erratic heartbeat, vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, and at extremely dangerous levels may cause seizures leading to death.

But caffeine powder is not alone on the list for links to concerns of severe illness and death.

Many sellers of Comfrey, also sold as blackwort and slippery root, claim it can relieve coughing, heavy menstrual periods, aid with stomach problems and treat cancer. Consumer Reports warns it can cause liver damage, cancer, and possibly death.

Green tea extract is often marketed as a weight loss supplement. In many cases, it will cause dizziness, ringing in the ears, elevate blood pressure and heart rate, cause liver damage, and also result in death.

Kava, or kava kava, is sold to consumers to help with anxiety and insomnia. Consumer Reports warns it causes liver damage, exacerbates Parkinson’s disease and depression, and may cause death.

Yohimbe is marketed as a treatment for low libido and erectile dysfunction, as well as depression and obesity. In many consumers, it will increase blood pressure, cause rapid heart rate, seizures, headaches, liver and kidney problems, panic attacks and also has a risk of death.

Consumer Reports warns that the ingredients can interact with both prescription and over-the-counter medications, such as cholesterol-lowering statins and blood-thinners, like aspirin and warfarin.

The severity of the side effects caused by the supplements depends on a consumer’s pre-existing conditions, the amount the ingredient consumed, and how long the consumer was exposed to the ingredient.

The group releases the list because dietary supplements are largely unregulated. The FDA does not oversee dietary supplements the way drugs or food products are regulated. Dietary supplements don’t require FDA approval before being sold on the market and the FDA only regulates supplements if a serious problem occurs.


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